Some eight centuries before St. Matthew wrote his Gospel, the prophet Isaiah had spoken of a bright light that would shine upon a land under shadows of death and upon a people in the darkness of oppression. The land was the northern end of Palestine, and it went by the name of Galilee.
The gloom resulted from the invasion of the Assyrian army, and the light was the radiance of deliverance from tyranny and exile.
This week’s Gospel shows us Jesus beginning His public ministry by moving from Nazareth to Capernaum, right in the midst of the land of Galilee. As Jesus moves to Capernaum, the prophetic words of Isaiah take on a new dimension and a new depth. The light of deliverance is the light of divine revelation; it is the light that is Christ Himself.
Light allows us to see clearly. There is a great difference between walking through a darkened room, where we might stumble and bump into objects and miss many details, and walking through a well-lit room, where we can see all that lies around us. Some years ago, Michelangelo’s famous frescoes in the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling and the Last Judgment on the rear wall were cleaned. Over the centuries, they had become darkened by soot from candles and dirt from the visitors who passed through. Once cleaned, however, the colors stood out more vividly, and details became apparent that had been hidden for centuries.
It is the same way with the coming of the Lord into our world. His light frees us from the oppression and tyranny of ignorance, error and falsehood, with their inevitable results of moral disorder and decline. He cures disease and illness, but the real healing is an interior one: healing from sin and ultimately from Satan’s power. In Christ’s light, we begin to see our way clearly to the Father; we come to know better His truth that helps us think and judge correctly; we avoid those obstacles that obstruct our path to salvation.
Sadly, there are those who deliberately close their eyes to the light of Christ. It is all too tempting for anyone to prefer the darkness of sin to the light that comes from God. Why? Because, as Jesus proclaims, His coming and His light is a summons to conversion: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Accepting Christ and following Him as His first disciples, Simon and Andrew, James and John, did means allowing the light of Christ’s truth and grace to shine in the dark corners and crevices of our souls where sin resides. Like the cleaning of Michelangelo’s frescoes, it means stripping away the layers of bad habits, faults and imperfections built up over the years: the very things that prevent our lives from radiating the brightness and beauty that God intended for us from the beginning.
Every page, every word of the Gospel is the light of deliverance that comes from the Lord. When we receive this light from the Light, we become lights to others. Christ shines forth more clearly in our lives, and we are made better witnesses to Him who calls us to walk always as children of the light, so that His truth, grace and life might be more abundant in us, and might, in turn, illumine all who come into the world.
Fr. De Ladurantaye is director of the Office of Sacred Liturgy, secretary for diocesan religious education, a professor of theology at Notre Dame Graduate School and in residence at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, Virginia.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)